Norwegian police charged prominent Islamist Ubaydullah Hussain with inciting murder and terrorism on Tuesday. The charges came as visiting US Attorney General Eric Holder praised Norway on its new plans to combat radicalization, and said America was considering similar measures.
Hussain was charged with five counts of incitement over comments made last year, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “In the period from January 20 to November 3 2013, with repeated praise of terrorism and terrorists on his own Facebook profile, he publicly urged someone to implement murder to create serious fear in the population and/or force the Norwegian or foreign authorities to refrain from military action in Muslim countries,” read the indictment.
The statements related to the terror attacks in In Amenas last January where 23 hostages were killed, the Boston Marathon bombings in April, the machete murder of a British soldier in a London street in May, and the Westgate mall attacks in Kenya in September, where 67 people were killed. He also praised terrorists who planned to blow up a plane on a flight between the UK and the US. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of six years.
“The accused denies guilt for this, and they are the same statements the Oslo city court (Oslo Tingrett) commented on last year as legal but unsavoury,” said Hussain’s lawyer John Christian Elden. “If Norwegian free speech is as low as the prosecutors here have expressed, Norway has a democratic problem.”
Elden argued Norway’s laws were too strict. “The statements are legal in, for example, England and the USA, which are the countries mentioned, and why Norway here should be more Catholic than the Pope just because we don’t like the statements, is difficult to see,” he said.
“We cannot see anything in the court’s judgment that closes this indictment,” responded prosecutor Jan Glent. “This is a whole new condition. On several occasions he has praised terrorism and terrorists on his own Facebook page.”
Earlier this year Hussain was found guilty of making threats against journalists, a researcher, an author and the local Jewish community. Prosecutors appealed the sentence, which is scheduled to be held in November. While no date had been set for the new charges, NRK reported the prosecution wanted them heard before the appeal began. An expert report by former VG journalist and author of Norwegian Jihad, Lars Akerhaug, will reportedly be part of the evidence.
US praises anti-radicalization efforts
Norway’s efforts to combat extremism and radicalization won praise from US Attorney General Eric Holder during his Oslo visit on Tuesday. Holder met with Norwegian politicians including Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Justice Minister Anders Anundsen. In a two-hour meeting, NRK reported Holder and Anundsen discussed radicalization and police and judicial cooperation. During the press conference that followed, Holder applauded Norway’s anti-extremism action plan which focuses on cooperation between government and community agencies, launched by the government last month.
“The action plan that Norway is now working with is impressive, and we’re considering introducing something similar,” he said, adding America faced the same issues of young people heading to Syria and other destinations to fight in religious conflicts. “Challenges that Norway and other countries are experiencing is something that also concerns the USA. We also have people who travel to these countries. It’s probably less than 100 at this point in time. Nevertheless, we cannot give exact numbers because we do not know for sure whether they’re thinking of going there, because many travel through other countries.”
Anundsen said his American counterpart was particularly impressed that Norway had identified specific characteristics and signs to be aware of if it was suspected someone was on the path to radicalization. He said Holder had already shown interest in Norway’s plans to combat radicalization during Anundsen’s US visit last November.
“I am happy about the good tone we have between us personally,” he said. “He is the first attorney general who has come to Norway in 10 years. We can benefit from each other’s experience.”
Anundsen said the two also briefly discussed the issue of US surveillance of European leaders. It remained unclear whether Norwegian politicians had also been monitored. “That was touched on as a general problem where we discussed the relationship between monitoring, registration and respect for privacy,” he said. “I and Norway conveyed the importance of ensuring civil rights. Even if you can do something, it does not mean that you should do it.”
Anundsen said he was positive towards the measures announced by the Obama administration following the NSA’s monitoring scandal, including promises the surveillance program would be reviewed and the material intelligence agencies can access may be tightened.